Van Niekerk: Starting series well is vital


South Africa women’s captain Dane van Niekerk has highlighted the importance of a winning start to their ODI series against New Zealand.

The series, which is made up of seven ODIs, is a crucial part of the ICC Women’s Championship, which serves as the qualification race for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 gains momentum. Only results of the first three matches will have a bearing on qualification.

World champions Australia are the only side to have gained a place at the World Cup so far, leaving three remaining places up for grabs.

Australia, who South Africa play next month Down Under, have reached 30 points from 18 matches in the seven-round competition that gives each team 21 matches to play. South Africa and New Zealand have 15 and 16 points respectively.

“It’s quite normal to have nerves ahead of any series,” Van Niekerk explained. “But the mood is good in the camp and it’s going to be a good series between two evenly matched sides.

“We need to beat New Zealand 3-0 in those three matches, just to make it easier for us going to Australia. Hopefully we can do it.”

Any side winning the series 3-0 will put itself in a strong position to qualify, while a 2-1 series win will only enhance its chances of qualifying directly for the pinnacle event in women’s cricket.

While the top four sides will qualify directly for the ICC Women’s World Cup, the bottom four sides will get a final chance of qualification through the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in February 2017.

This is New Zealand’s first tour to South Africa and Van Niekerk believes the gap is closing between the top and bottom ranked teams in the women’s game.

“We’ve seen throughout the years that the gap is closing,” she added. “We are competing against the best in the world and we showed it against England and the West Indies.

“We’ve proven we can compete and if we can just get some consistency, hopefully we can win some big series, starting with this one.”